Tuesday, August 2, 2011


"The heavenly light you admire is fossil-light, it's the unfathomably distant past you gaze into, stars long extinct." 


Today I review a book. Yes, I know. This is a rarity, but it should not be as this is kind of a book blog. I read often,  book binge, but the starved novelist is often writing and writing and writing and not being paid for that, but has to pay for other useless things like nourishment and shelter and that is as exhausting as that run on sentence was. However, sometimes books really clutch you. They rattle you so much to the point where you simply have to stop and praise/curse it's title. Foxfire by Joyce Carol Oates is one of those books.

The story surrounds a rabble rousing girl gang making mischief in the 1950s. At first it's small, wearing red scarves and crafting homemade tattoos, but then the mischief contorts into macabre and the comfort the gang had provided to the girls suddenly turns on them when one member decides to stands alone after such a time of them standing as one. 

Foxfire burns bright. The narrator, Maddy-Monkey is a meek thing, but she has an irresistible voice, a readable ramble that sends us traipsing through the gang's past. Maddy joins us, reliving old memories through journal entries. We know her well and this technique lends to a certain relativity that makes the Foxfire affair so real. We share her envy of Legs, the group leader and her distaste for Violet, a saucy gal that joins later in the game.

Foxfire is a read to stumble through, as the narrative is at times fractured. Oates abandons the laws of grammar to bring small town voices to life. At times she omits commas to give a rambled sort of voice, something rushed and impatient as if it has so much to tell in so little time. This really elevates the novel above the plot summary. It's what is most important in literary fiction, not necessarily the plot, but how the plot is shown to us. As a writer and a reader of the genre, I count myself lucky to be educated and entertained by this novel, this triumph.

Joyce Carol Oates leaves readers nostalgic for a place they've never been. Although, I guess that isn't true. I was there. I rode in, through, and out on the simple spell cast by language, a world created by words.

That last part was cheesy, I know. Sometimes I like the cheese, but I gotta keep it outta the serious writing. Literary agents don't like cheese. So here, you have it. Put it on nachos.

Thanks for reading,

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